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Conversion rate optimization (CRO)

What is CRO?

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is an important part of online marketing strategies. In an environment that offers so many choices and distractions, CRO is the science and art of capturing the visitors’ attention and leading them closer to the desired goal. It’s a marketing strategy, created with the purpose of maximizing revenue, but it’s also a strategy that improves the user experience. As an effect, websites become more effective, delivering the exact information they are supposed to, while visitors navigate faster and easier. A page is considered well optimized when a high percentage of visitors “convert” into customers or subscribers.

Sites conversion is a tricky business. But if done right, the advantages of CRO go way beyond improving your conversion rate. CRO also allows you to improve your websites, maximize the results of your ad campaigns and acquire high-quality leads that have more potential of turning into customers. It is particularly useful for eCommerce websites, where competition is intense and enhanced user experiences matters more than anywhere else.

Conversion rate optimization meaning

But what is conversion rate optimization specifically? It is the process of changing elements on your website to create better experiences for your visitors in order to convert them into customers. What should come under scrutiny when you’re trying different CRO strategies? The design of the webpage, copy and analytics. Here are a few conversion rate optimization examples for each of these elements:

Design

  • Less cluttered designs are the key to landing page optimization. It is easier for visitors to understand what action they are supposed to complete if you have a simple, airy design and clear call to action buttons (CTA). The more white space on your landing page, the better, because this will allow users to focus on the written content and products. Use clear, smart headlines to help with on-page orientation. You should also include some visual elements, as they instill trust while also capturing the users’ attention. DesignBoost, for example, increased their conversions by 13% with the simple act of compressing their landing page.
  • Make the “Buy now” or “Add to cart” elements more prominent on product pages. They should stand out through bright colors and design, for a better checkout experience. If you wonder how this simple trick increases your conversions, you may want to know that SAP Business Objects obtained 32% more conversions by adding a big, orange button on the test.
  • Use high-quality product images and make them bigger. Hyundai boosted conversion by doing just that. After using larger product images, the request for test drives increased by 62%.
  • Instead of using instant pop-ups, try using Exit Intent. Once people land on your page, don’t offer them discounts in exchange for their email address right away. Let them browse your website, interact with it, see for themselves and then when they offer signals that suggest they’re ready to leave the site, pop the question. Exit Intent is proven to capture more high-quality leads. This is because this kind of users have already engaged with your products or content in one way or another, as opposed to those who grab the coupon upon their entry and use it for a one-time buy. This strategy might increase conversion rates by up to 27%.

Copy

  • Use strong headlines, persuasive writing techniques, keep it as simple as possible and always check on the readability of the whole page. 
  • Make the written part as scannable as possible, so the visitor can easily skim through the content without losing the main idea.
  • Improve the description section of your products and services. Make sure that their value really stands out.
  • While your writing needs to support your SEO efforts, it takes something more than that to make it appealing to your visitors: it also needs to be optimized for your buyer personas. Make sure the content is adapted to their interests, needs and the current stage of their buyer journey.

Analytics

The results of these improvements and all the conversion metrics can be measured through A/B testing. There are multiple tools you can use for A/B testing in order to discover which layouts and what type of content performs best among your users. Yet you shouldn’t rely solely on the data obtained from these experiments. Using an analytics tool such as Google Analytics will allow you to go more in-depth and will give you more insightful detail about your users’ on-site behavior. Here’s a short list of the ways you can use analytics to boost your conversion rates:

  • Track the performance of each product and service 
  • Monitor bounce rate to increase your conversion rate
  • Use landing pages’ reports to see how well they are performing
  • Use the enhanced eCommerce reports, especially those dedicated to the shopping and checkout behavior of your users in order to better meet their needs

Conversion rate optimization is a crucial online marketing activity for all the marketers who want to maximize revenue from SEO, PPC and other forms of online promotion that attract traffic on site. It can also highlight otherwise missed opportunities. Moreover, it allows marketers to track and keep up with ever-changing customer preferences and motivations. 

Last but not least, CRO means improving the ROAS (Return On Advertising Spend) of all your campaigns. With the rising costs of the PPC and social media campaigns, it’s more necessary than ever to watch over your CRO efforts. You know what they say: “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Well, now you have the opportunity to avoid this situation, by using the methods we highlighted above.

What is a good conversion rate?

According to the end goal, the conversion rate value can vary a lot so there’s no real standard for a good conversion rate. However, if similar conversion funnels are compared, then some benchmarks can be created. For example, some of the most popular conversion rate benchmarks are according to e-commerce industries: fashion, home & garden, electronics, etc. According to industry, the average conversion rate might be higher or lower, but that’s quite irrelevant to the individual website owner because regardless of their conversion rate there is always room for improvement. 

The average e-commerce conversion rate is about 3%. This means that 97% of visitors leave sites without completing a purchase. This doesn’t mean, however, that each and every site is destined to fall into its industry’s average conversion rate. 

A good conversion rate is one that is steadily growing. The starting point does not really matter as long as the evolution is positive and constant. Statistically speaking the top 10% of websites convert on average about 5 times better than the industry average. So as long as you’re not in the 10%, the best conversion rate is a growing one.

Macro conversions vs micro conversions

Most people imagine that CRO has just one main goal: improving sales. While this is a major point of focus for conversion optimization, it’s definitely not the only one. This is why marketers usually divide types of desired visitor actions into two main goals: macro and micro conversions. 

Macro conversions are most of the time represented by-product sales. They are the end-goal of a website. However, micro conversions although often overlooked, have the power to support and drastically influence the number of macro conversions. They mostly refer to actions that don’t involve any type of payment such as submitting personal information (aka leads), downloading a resource, visiting a key page, subscribing to the weekly newsletter, etc. One of the key aspects of micro-conversions is that they are a milestone to the end-goal and they help make the customer journey easier. 

For example, it’s quite difficult to bring traffic to a product page and hope for instant sales. However, it’s much simpler to bring visitors to a content page discussing the benefits of a product, then to have them subscribe to a newsletter (micro-conversion) in order to get more info about that product. Next, the communication will continue on the email during which the users will get more acquainted with the product and brand, so their trust level would continuously improve. So as they eventually visit the product page through a link in the email, they will be much more willing to buy.

How to calculate conversion rates

Conversion rate optimization metrics depend largely on your goals, on what you are trying to optimize specifically, be it your ads, your landing page for capturing leads or your product pages.

These are the most common conversion goals:

  • Submitting information (a lead)
  • Signing up for a newsletter
  • Calling a given number
  • Creating an account
  • Form completions
  • Downloading a resource
  • Engaging with a site (time spent on site, visits to certain pages, page count)
  • Making a purchase (end goal)

Generally speaking, you can use this main formula to calculate conversion rates:

Conversion rate = (Number of time a goal is completed) / (Number of people who had the opportunity to complete that goal)

For example, if you run an eCommerce website your main interest is the number of the people making purchases, out of the total number of visitors. Therefore, if 1000 people visited your website over the past month and you made 100 sales, this means your conversion rate will be 100/1000 = 10%.

Other experts say you should take this ratio and multiply it by 100:

eCommerce conversion rate = (Total number of eCommerce transactions / Total visits on your website) x 100

So if out of 40 visitors, for example, 5 of them complete a transaction, then your conversion rate will be (5 transactions / 40 visits) x 100 = a 12.5% conversion rate.

Here are a few other ways to calculate it, depending on your goal:

Conversion rate = (Total number of conversions / Total number of sessions) x 100

Conversion rate = (Total number of conversions / Total number of unique visitors) x 100

Conversion rate = (Total number of conversions / Total number of leads) x 100

For Google ads, conversion rates are calculated by simply taking the number of conversions (an action that’s counted when someone interacts with your ad and then takes an action that you’ve defined as valuable for your business: making a phone call, visiting a product page, completing a purchase) and dividing that by the number of total ad interactions that can be tracked to a conversion during the same time period.

For example, if out of 1000 people interacting with your ad, 50 of them visit the product page attached to it, your conversion rate would be 5% (50 / 1000 = 5%).

Monitoring conversion rates over specific periods of time is an essential part of your conversion rate optimization process, as it shows you how well the content is performing and whether or not the results of your optimization efforts are satisfactory.

Why is Conversion Rate Optimization important?

CRO means focusing on your potential customers, their experience, their wants and needs. Thus, the importance of conversion rate optimization lays in the masterful way you will get to combine technical elements with the psychology of your consumers. And the advantages don’t stop here. There are actually numerous conversion rate optimization benefits, such as:

  • Increased value of website visitors: your website or landing page can acquire more visitors through good SEO and advertising, yet optimizing for conversions helps you generate more sales or leads with the same traffic.
  • Leading to more time spent on your website. This, in turn, means a higher chance of converting users into leads or customers.
  • Allowing you to get ahead of your competitors, as CRO focuses on improved functionality, enhanced user experience, better site value and outstanding content.
  • Diminishing the costs of PPC advertising, by making the most out of the clicks you get. Through CRO, those clicks actually pay for themselves.
  • Helping you understand more about consumer behavior. This is when A/B testing finally pays off: you can use these insights in other areas of your business as well, therefore improving its overall profitability.
  • Increasing your customers’ lifetime value. Most retailers focus their effort in one direction: getting people to click, visit a website and purchase an item. Good CRO allows you to successfully funnel site visitors both physically and psychologically, towards making that purchase. As long as you offer them great content, a good on-site experience and- why not?- personalized discounts, there are more chances to turn these one-time customers into frequent buyers.

When is Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) good for your business?

The short answer is: anytime. Regardless of your industry, your business will benefit from your conversion rate optimization efforts. Take the Weather Channel, for example. You wouldn’t expect such a website to need CRO, right? Yet they managed to increase conversions by 225% with one simple hack: simplifying their homepage. The Olympic Store boosted its conversions by 7.74% by solely improving the site navigation process.

The best thing about CRO is the aforementioned benefit of capturing more high-quality leads. You can also increase your advertising budget in order to drive more traffic to your website, hoping that this will translate into more purchases and increased revenue. But this is not a long-term, cost-effective strategy. CRO, however, is. When done correctly, conversion rate optimization can help you with all of these things:

  • Create a great subscription list
  • Sell more
  • Perform better in all areas of your business
  • Improve your ROI (Return On Investment)
  • Improve customers’ perception of your brand
  • Complement your SEO efforts

If you’re interested in working on your CRO strategy, these advantages should convince you to take action quicker.

How to create an effective Conversion Rate Optimization Strategy

First of all, you should know that CRO is not some sort of magic formula you can use to boost your sales and results don’t appear overnight. Moreover, best practices and hacks only work as long as you treat them with caution, adapting them to your business model and your specific needs. CRO is a technical process in which assumptions don’t play any role, even if they come from your most experienced UI developers or your life-long business career. CRO is data-driven, meaning that you must use data-backed insights in order to make improvements. CRO is not a one-time effort either- it should be an ongoing process of learning and adapting your website. Now that we’ve got all this sorted out, here is a step-by-step guide to Conversion Rate Optimization:

Gather a team of professionals

This includes a CRO manager, a data analyst, a web developer, a web graphic designer and a good copywriter. They will develop a content and design strategy, will run A/B or multivariate testing and will monitor the results as they appear. This way, they will be able to provide you with useful explanations regarding what works best and what requires further improvement.

Set up your CRO infrastructure

There are numerous CRO programs you can use. Above all, you will need an A/B testing platform, such as the intuitive one we offer here, at Omniconvert, and your website analytics tool(s). According to Hubspot’s CRO planner, analytics can help you track the current conversion rate across your website, then highlight the problem areas, like the point where users drop off most. Analytics are also useful for post-test analysis, by allowing you to see which type of content performs best.

Set up your website’s conversion funnel and take the time to understand how it works

Visitors don’t come on your website to buy right away. They require multiple interactions with you and your brand in order to make a decision. There’s an awareness stage with subscribers and leads, a consideration stage with qualified leads and a decision stage when qualified leads turn into new customers. Understanding these steps users take will help you make relevant improvements by optimizing each different stage of their journey.

Align your business’s metrics with the stages of the conversion funnel

Distinguish between micro-conversions (low-involvement commitments from a visitor) and macro-conversions (actual sales conversions) and align them with your goals. Whether you care about brand awareness, newsletter sign-ups or closing deals, these elements should fit into your overall strategy and stay in line with your own goals.

Conduct a CRO audit

Get familiar with the industry’s benchmarks in order to see how well your website is performing. This will help you set realistic, relevant conversion goals. Then focus on your current conversion rate and other website metrics, such as the time it takes for the page to load, bounce rate, cross-device and cross-browser functionality. People may visit your website from their desktop computers or via their mobile phone. They might use Google Chrome or Firefox as browsers and so on. Make sure it is correctly optimized in all these areas.

Do some quick adjustments

Improve your copy, shorten the web forms, make your CTAs more visible and easier to understand, make your brand’s value proposition stand out. Find opportunities to guide your visitors through their on-site journey, by eliminating potential friction points or unnecessary steps. Make discounts, coupons or giveaways more obvious, so that you can better trigger the users’ engagement. Are you offering free delivery or other extra services that your potential customers might find interesting? Bring them forth as well and get ready for split testing.

Do the A/B testing or multivariate tests and identify relevant areas for improvement

For relevant results, you will need to run A/B testing for at least a week. Use your analytics tool to better understand the visitors’ journey on your website, as well as the page features that influence the users’ behavior. Use heatmaps, session recordings or website surveys for more in-depth information. You may need to carry out more than one experiment, as A/B tests rarely show you what you need to know from the first shot. Moreover, there are multiple hypotheses you can test, so negative results to one of them should be seen not as a failure but as an opportunity for learning and adjusting your perspective.

Analyze the results and implement the changes

Measure conversion for each of the versions in order to see which performed best. Which one brought you the largest percentage of visitors? What about in the case of the leads generated? The test may reveal a winning variation, no difference between control and variation or a losing variation. If a winning variation is discovered, implement the change and use the results as the basis for your future optimization efforts. If a losing variation is identified, this may be due to a faulty hypothesis or to the fact that something may have gone wrong during the experiment. Look at the figures, check your analytics and, if necessary, repeat the whole process with a reconstructed hypothesis in mind. 

Keep in mind that numbers and percentages rarely paint the whole picture. While defining or refining the hypothesis, dig deeper into the “whys” and “hows” behind the consumers’ behavior. In other words, do some qualitative research as well. This can help you explore other ways of serving the customer motivations through your messages and products. You can turn to social media, focus groups, surveys or even employee and customer interviews to fuel your qualitative efforts. When you’re done, consider adding the results into a comprehensive database- they can be later used to track your findings, monitor your CRO efforts and prioritize elements that need to be tested.

Conversion rate optimization best practices & principles

CRO is usually done in-house or it can be outsourced to a digital agency that offers conversion rate optimization services. Although there is no standard approach to CRO, there are some activities that more often than not make up the core of the optimization process. Some of these activities are A/B testing, heat mapping, session recordings, website surveys, web personalization, emotional copywriting, etc. 

The issue of best practices is often discussed in the CRO industry. With the growing need to improve conversions faster, people who are new to conversion optimization to look for examples and case studies from other companies and replicate them on their own websites. They may think that these tactics are tested and guaranteed to bring them the best results in the shortest time possible. While at first sight, this might seem like a good tactic, it’s not recommended at all because of the multitude of factors that can change the outcome of an optimization test. This is why it’s adamant that each change to the website to be tested before being set live. Sometimes though, when there is not enough traffic to run a proper test it might be a good idea to adhere to the best practices, but that’s until the website grows and serious testing can take place. 

However, regardless of the CRO strategy approach, the specialists should guide their actions according to the main conversion optimization principles: urgency, social proof & clarity.

Urgency refers to having some sort of a deadline until a certain action can be performed. According to research, people tend to take much quicker decisions when there’s a deadline insight, as opposed to the alternative of being left to decide by themselves. A good example of this CRO principle is messages on booking.com enticing you to hurry with the decision of making a reservation because it might be taken by someone else in the meantime. 

Social proof is a staple principle of CRO because it helps improve a key purchasing factor: trust. The fact that other people have bought the same product or service makes it much more likely for someone else to also try…especially if some of those previous clients are people they know. Some of the most effective social proof examples are client testimonials, social media signals, product reviews, and ratings. Here’s a social proof example from one of Amazon’s top-selling products:

Clarity is also important because, without it, visitors will get lost in irrelevant details making it more unlikely for them to complete a purchase. This is why every element on each page must be there for a reason and anything that does not justify its presence should be removed. Clarity reduces clutter and a cluttered website is one that is at the opposite pole of a conversion-optimized one.

Examples of common CRO strategies

Conversion optimization strategies can increase the number of real customers by guiding their attention to what matters throughout the buying process. You can increase conversion rates by adapting your CRO strategy to the principles of the sales funnels and by adding funnel testing to the whole process. Depending on the context, there are different ways to implement conversion optimization strategies. Here are a few examples of how website conversion optimization can be approached:

Situation: Visitors arrive on the homepage or on a category page, they seem interested in the displayed information, but in the end leave without making any significant action (subscribing to newsletter, buying, completing a form). This type of on-site behavioral pattern can point to a missing element in the navigation structure or a lack of incentives.

Solution: You can solve this by optimizing shopping routes. Make subcategories of product pages easily accessible and highly visible on landing pages.

Situation: You notice in Google Analytics that a specific segment of your visitors arrive on the site and then leave too quickly, without reading the information or taking any action.

Solution: In this particular case, actions should concentrate on decreasing the bounce rate. The cause of a high bounce rate could be search engine optimization on words that don’t describe the product accurately. It could also be an advertisement that promises more than the site can actually offer. In order to find the real reason and apply the appropriate optimization tactic, research and data analysis need to be done. A good approach to doing so is by creating an on-exist visitor feedback survey where you ask them what are the main reasons they leave so soon.  

Situation: Visitors have the intention to purchase and add items to their shopping carts, but the transactions are never finalized.

Solution: When it comes to e-commerce, one of the most important aspects conversion rate optimization should focus on, is lowering the cart abandonment rate. In this case, the checkout page must be thoroughly tested in order to make sure there is no technical issue at play. After making sure that the issue is not of technical nature, other tactics can be implemented from offering incentives, creating better product descriptions, offering alternative shipping options, or delivering personalized messages based on context and customer profile.

Conversion rate optimization methodology

Conversion optimization is a logical process in which you draw conclusions based on research. By putting together the various data about your target market, user behavior and motivation, and user interaction with different website architectures and display of information.

The first step of a sound CRO process starts with gathering data. Visitor segmentation and analyzing the conversion funnel can help retrieve important data such as visitor profiles, the site’s weak spots, and its points of interest. A simple way to determine where to start the optimization is by trying to answer some basic questions:

  • Why do visitors leave?
  • Are certain groups of visitors more likely to leave the site?
  • What’s missing on the site?
  • What can be improved?
  • Which obstructions can be eliminated from the sales pathway?

After interpreting the data and drawing conclusions, a hypothesis should be formulated. Based on what you already know, what change in the navigation process, on the landing pages, or the cart checkout process, could persuade more users to finalize a purchase or to buy more?

Through testing, you can find out if the recommended change has the expected results. Testing allows previewing changes and their effects without actually making permanent changes on site. Only if the expected results are confirmed, changes will be implemented.

How to get started with Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)?

Above all, you need to know what is conversion rate optimization and what it is not. That is, CRO is not a one-size-fits-all approach, each strategy is unique and takes into account specific needs and goals, depending on your industry, the size of your business and the overall quality of your website. Your first steps in CRO should be purpose-driven. You cannot optimize conversions if you don’t have a clear overview of what should be changed and what should stay in place. Identify your goals, do a website audit, highlight potential issues that hinder your conversion rates and build the strategy based on them. 

Then, get familiar with the three main stages of CRO:

  1. Discovery: the part when you gain a deeper understanding of your audience through qualitative and quantitative data and formulate an optimization plan.
  2. Testing: the actual experimentation phase when you test out different hypotheses you brainstormed in the above step.
  3. Review & Analysis: The post-experimentation phase where you analyze results from different tests and make changes accordingly.

If you find this too difficult to do on your own or if gathering a team of experts is too expensive for your possibilities, you will be relieved to know that you have two options. The first one is to outsource the CRO process to a specialized company and work closely with them. The other one is to identify some strategic thinkers within your team and make a plan of your own, which you will stick to with the help of simple, intuitive CRO tools that don’t require coding skills. What you need to know, however, is that this conversion optimization is a very time-consuming process and you will need to do dig deeper into all the mechanisms impacting it beforehand.

Conversion rate optimization tools

Website conversion optimization is a science that brings together several disciplines: statistics, psychology, copywriting, design, ergonomics, etc. Depending on the nature of your project you might need a tool that does A/B testing, or surveys, or heat maps, or user recordings, or website overlays, etc. Ideally, you’d find a tool that combines several features in order to have easy data access between features, to have a single login and to save on monthly costs. One of these conversion rate optimization tools is Omniconvert.

Omniconvert is a complete conversion optimization solution that combines creativity with research and testing. With Omniconvert you can easily segment visitors by multiple variables, create tests and experiments, create personalized messages and conduct surveys that teach you more about customers’ expectations.

On the internet, the decision to click on a link or to leave a page is taken within a second. Successful conversion optimization tackles the problem of capturing the customer’s attention at the right time. With Omniconvert you can seize the opportunity to re-engage users in the navigation or in the buying process, by delivering content in real-time, which is relevant to them and their lifestyles.

Omniconvert is a tool focused on creating personalized interactions with the customer and on giving a friendly and accessible aspect to the buying process.

If you’re looking for user-friendly software that makes the process of conversion optimization easy without requiring the additional knowledge, Omniconvert is it and can help any website reach a higher conversion rate.

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